Testing projected wild bee distributions in agricultural habitats: Predictive power depends on species traits and habitat type

Leon Marshall, Luísa G. Carvalheiro, Jesús Aguirre-Gutiérrez, Merijn Bos, G. Arjen de Groot, David Kleijn, Simon G. Potts, Menno Reemer, Stuart Roberts, Jeroen Scheper, Jacobus C. Biesmeijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Species distribution models (SDM) are increasingly used to understand the factors that regulate variation in biodiversity patterns and to help plan conservation strategies. However, these models are rarely validated with independently collected data and it is unclear whether SDM performance is maintained across distinct habitats and for species with different functional traits. Highly mobile species, such as bees, can be particularly challenging to model. Here, we use independent sets of occurrence data collected systematically in several agricultural habitats to test how the predictive performance of SDMs for wild bee species depends on species traits, habitat type, and sampling technique. We used a species distribution modeling approach parametrized for the Netherlands, with presence records from 1990 to 2010 for 193 Dutch wild bees. For each species, we built a Maxent model based on 13 climate and landscape variables. We tested the predictive performance of the SDMs with independent datasets collected from orchards and arable fields across the Netherlands from 2010 to 2013, using transect surveys or pan traps. Model predictive performance depended on species traits and habitat type. Occurrence of bee species specialized in habitat and diet was better predicted than generalist bees. Predictions of habitat suitability were also more precise for habitats that are temporally more stable (orchards) than for habitats that suffer regular alterations (arable), particularly for small, solitary bees. As a conservation tool, SDMs are best suited to modeling rarer, specialist species than more generalist and will work best in long-term stable habitats. The variability of complex, short-term habitats is difficult to capture in such models and historical land use generally has low thematic resolution. To improve SDMs' usefulness, models require explanatory variables and collection data that include detailed landscape characteristics, for example, variability of crops and flower availability. Additionally, testing SDMs with field surveys should involve multiple collection techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4426-4436
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Arable fields
  • Model validation
  • Orchards
  • Traits
  • Wild bees


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